Transit 101: How to Read a Bus Schedule

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How to read a bus schedule!. From IndyGo in Indianapolis, IN at http://www.indygo.net/

Transit 101: How to Read a Bus Schedule

While the advent of transit apps and Google Transit has reduced the need to read a bus schedule, it is still an essential skill for anybody desiring to take transit. How does one read a timetable? Note that reading a timetable is merely one of several steps involved when planning your first transit trip. There are two basic parts of a bus schedule, the map and the list of times.

Before you go any further, make sure you have the right route schedule. Review a system map and locate your starting point and ending point on the map, noting the route or routes that serve those locations. After learning what routes you need to ride, locate the individual route schedule(s) in the transit guide or select the right pocket timetable. The following instructions refer to a normal timetable with the horizontal orientation.

Map – Virtually all transit timetables show a map of the route for which the times are presented. On the map are usually, but not always, denoted a series of symbols representing the time points, which are set times that the bus is scheduled to wait for at certain locations along the route. The first step is to select the closest upstream timepoint – the location that is nearest to the west of your current location if you are heading east or the location that is nearest to the east of your current location if you are heading west (and similarly for north/south travels).

Timetable – After you determine your closest timepoint, proceed to the list of times section of the schedule. Normally a different set of times is provided for weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, so be sure to focus on the part of the schedule that corresponds to the day you are traveling. After you select the right daytype, determine if you are going east, west, north, or south of your current location and select the right table accordingly (in some cases inbound or outbound are used instead).

Select the timepoint which is closest to your destination, find the time closest to your desired arrival time, and then work backward to the left along the same row to find the time at your closest embarkation timepoint. This is the time you need to be at your starting stop.

Be sure to note any timetable exceptions and read when they apply in the notes at the bottom. The most common exceptions are trips that only operate when school is in session and trips that only operate on Saturday (or Sunday) on timetables that display trips that are operated on both weekend days.

If you have to transfer to a different route, then consult the timetable for the other route, locate the place where the two routes meet, and then look at the closest timepoint for each route to determine how long your wait will be. Often transit agencies will offer timed transfer opportunities at major transit centers .

In order to assist patrons in connecting the timepoint on the map to the timepoint on the timetable, letters or numbers are often assigned to each timepoint.

It is important to note that buses will only observe the times listed as timepoints. Buses will often arrive late, but should (at least in theory), never leave early.

Sometimes automated schedule information will provide times for stops in between timepoints; these times are estimated times only.

Be careful – not all trips may serve the entire route. Trips that only cover part of a route are called short-turn trips; if your destination lays outside the section of the route a short-turn trip covers then please avoid frustration by waiting for the next full-length trip.

In addition to the map and timetable, schedules often include fare information and a phone number to call for transit information.